Broussonetia papyrifera

by David Bruce Leonard

PLANT NAME: Broussonetia papyrifera (L.) Venten.

COMMON NAMES: Wauke, po'a'aha [Hawai'i]; u'a [Samoa]; chu (whole plant), chu shi zi (fruit), gu shi (fruit), chu tao (fruit) [China]; kajinoki [Japan].

NOMENCLATURE: The genus is named after P. M. Auguste Broussonet (1761-1807), a French naturalist. The epithet "papyrifera" means "paper bearing."

FAMILY: Moraceae (Fig family).

CATEGORY: Cool the blood ~ (fruit)

PROPERTIES: Fruit: sweet and cold. Leaves: sweet and cool. Root cortex: sweet and neutral.

PLANT PART USED: Fruit, leaves, bark, cortex, sap, stems. In China, the fruit is primarily used as medicine.

CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS: Prolonged use is reported to weaken the bones.

DOSAGE: Use 9-15 grams.

STATUS IN HAWAI'I: Polynesian introduction ("politically correct" alien). An aggressive pest in more than ten countries, including the US, Wauke has minimal pest factor in Hawai'i. It has rich significance as a heritage plant in Polynesian societies.

MERIDIAN AFFINITIES: Spleen, liver, kidneys ~.

WESTERN FUNCTIONS REPORTED: Antidiarrheal (leaves); anti-swelling (sap); astringent; diaphoretic (leaf juice); diuretic (fruit); galactogogue; hemostatic (leaves, stembark); insecticidal (sap); lactogogue (root); laxative (leaf juice); ophthalmic (fruit); reduces swelling [China]; stimulant (fruit); stomachic (fruit); tonic (fruit); vulnerary (latex).



1) Clears heat and cools the blood.

2) Drains dampness.

3) Clears damp heat in the middle and lower burners.

4) Stops diarrhea.

5) Nourishes the Liver and Kidneys


1) Strengthens joints.

2) Promotes absorption.

3) Drains damp.

4) Nourishing to the eyes.

Wauke Common Medicinal Uses

§  Skin problems

§  Reproductive problems

Wauke Cross-Cultural Medicinal Uses


§  Blood deficiency, vertigo [China (fruit)]; leaves for blood in sputum, vomiting blood, wound bleeding [China].


§  Stems used for skin eruptions, neurodermatitis, tinea infection, eczema [China (latex)].


§  Stops diarrhea, abdominal distention [China]; leaves also used for dysentery, enteritis [China].

§  Leaves infused for stomach and abdominal pain [Samoa].

§  Sap as a laxative [Hawai'i].


§  Weak vision, nourishing to the eyes [China (fruit)].


§  Sap removes pus [China].


§  Weakness of joints and muscle [China (cortex)]. 


§  The ashes of burned kapa were used in treating thrush [Hawai'i].


§  Wauke was believed to have psychic or magical powers.

§  The Apache used wauke as a narcotic and wore the seeds around the neck during ceremonies.


§  Impotence [China (fruit)] "Leaves are astringent in *fluxes* and gonorrhea." [China]; uterine bleeding, excess menstrual bleeding [China].

§  Kapa was worn around the neck of nursing mothers to induce the flow of milk [Hawai'i].


§  Bark decocted for ascites [China]; edema [China (fruit or cortex)]; juice used in anuria [China].


§  Debility of the loins and knees, [China (fruit)]; bee sting [China (latex)], insect bites (latex) [China].

USE AS FOOD: Edible fruit, 3 / 4." Flowers and leaves are also said to be edible.


§  "Wauke" is the name of the plant Broussonetia papyrifera, and "kapa" is the traditional cloth that is made from it.

§  The leaves of wauke (called kaijioki in Japan) are used as paper on which poems are written during the summer Tanabata festival.

§  The juice is used as glue.

§  Sometimes used as cordage in Hawai'i.

§  Wood is sometimes used for cups and bowls.

CONSTITUENTS: Benzofurans, biphenylpropanoids, coumarins, flavonoids (chalcones, flavans, flavanones, and flavones).

Wauke Local Combinations

Skin eruptions: Add Morus alba (sang ye) leaves, Trifolium praetense (red clover) and Plantago spp. (laukahi).

Excess menstrual bleeding: Add Eclipta prostrata (han lian cao).

RANGE: Native to China and Japan. The historical spread of Broussonetia papyrifera can be traced along known migration routes.

HABITAT: Edge of stream and lo'i (taro fields). Wet and sunny. Can tolerate partial shade.

GATHERING: In Asia, plant flowers in May. Ripe fruit is collected and washed in fall. Cortex, latex, and bark are gathered all year round. Leaves are gathered fall and summer. The serrated lobed leaves are easily identifiable and have a course "sand-paper" texture.


By seed, cuttings, or root cuttings.

Broussonetia papyrifera is a dioecious (each plant is an individual gender) shrub or tree. In Hawai'i it appears mostly as a tall shrub, but in Asia there are wauke plants up to 50' high. Germination 2 - 3 weeks.


Broussochalcone A, a constituent of Broussonetia papyrifera is a potent antioxidant [Cheng 2001].


§  In 105 A.D., a man named Ts'ai Lun made the first paper from Broussonetia papyrifera in China.

§  According to Li Zishen the character "chu" originallly meant "to make a textile from the skin."

§  In Hawaiian mythology, the moon goddess Hina was unable to dry her kapa because the Sun moved too quickly across the sky. So her son, the demigod Mäui, climbed to the top of Haleakalä, captured the Sun with rope made from his grandmother's hair. Mäui refused to release the Sun until he agreed to move more slowly across the heavens.

§  The best kapa in Hawai'i was considered "Po'a'aha" which had a softer texture than others. Since Hawaiian malo (loincloths) were made from kapa and kapa can be notoriously abrasive, I imagine this was a popular item.

§  Although tapa (kapa) production thrives in Samoa, in Hawai'i it almost became extinct. Hawaiian kapa making was at one time the best of all kapa in the Pacific, but the details of the Hawaiians' superlative kapa skills were lost to antiquity. The kapa-making process was single handedly revived by a remarkable and tenacious woman named Pua Van-Dorpe. Working with only the slimmest fragments of ancient information, she did experiments for years involving countless hours of trial and error, and succeeded in rediscovering the lost art of kapa making which she now shares with others.

David Bruce Leonard is the founder of the Earth Medicine Institute and practitioner of all five branches of traditional Chinese medicine: acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, food medicine, martial arts.

David has studied traditional medicines with healers in Asia, North and South America, and Hawai’i. With a Master’s Degree in traditional Chinese medicine, he has a working knowledge of more than 400 traditional Hawaiian, Chinese, and Western plants. A deep ecologist and Hawaiian plant specialist, he has been a student of Hawaiian medicine under Kahu Kawika Ka’alakea, Kaipo Kaneakua and Na Kupuna ‘O Hawai’i since 1992.


Cheng Z, et al. 2001. Broussochalcone A, a potent antioxidant and effective suppressor of inducible nitric oxide synthase in lipopolysaccharide-activated macrophages.  Biochem Pharmacol 61(8):939-46

Hsu, Hong-Yen. 1986. Oriental Materia Medica. A Concise Guide. Long Beach, CA: Oriental Healing Arts Institute.

Li Ninghan, et al. 1976. Chinese Medicinal Herbs of Hong Kong. Volumes 1-5. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Commercial Press, Ltd. (Shang Wu Yin Shu Guan, Xiang Gang You Xian Gong Si)

Li Ninghan, et al. 1994. Chinese Medicinal Herbs of Hong Kong. Volume 6. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Commercial Press, Ltd. (Shang Wu Yin Shu Guan, Xiang Gang You Xian Gong Si)

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